Mine

I pierced my belly button when I was 19, and what I remember most acutely about the experience is the absolutely appalling way that people would come up to me and put one of their fingers in the ring. Women in bathrooms were the worst. I lived in Hawaii then and rarely wore a full-length shirt so it was just right there. My belly ring. The way my pregnancy would be later. And people responded in a similar way.

“Oh!” Random girl beside me. “Did it hurt?” Reaches out and grabs ring.

Are you fucking kidding me? Who said you could touch me?

And this is how I understand predation. Whether or not you have a sexual angle, you are not allowed to touch me without my consent. Not my belly. Not my face. You are not allowed to come up behind me and grind. Not on the dance floor, not waiting in line. Your objective in this scenario — in ANY scenario — is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is whether or not you have my consent. And if you don’t, back the fuck up.

This is the clearest example I have in my head about boundaries. You do not get to touch me without my permission. I will never ask my son to hug someone or kiss them. I will never have him sit on anyone’s lap. (Santa? How is it we have made an entire celebration out of sitting on a random stranger’s lap?) His body is his own. And he can decide for himself if he’s willing to be affectionate with another person.

Concerning men, this has been clear to me for a long time. With women, it has been much harder to set firm boundaries. Partly because being with women in any degree of intimacy was a radical act according to the “values” of my parents and their church. So if any connection is wrong, how can you tell what is healthy and what isn’t? Which part of your relationship shouldn’t be obsessive?

And then, once I have made a decision about what is acceptable and what isn’t acceptable, do I have any right to change the rules? After agonizing discussions, can I then say, “You know what, I’m just not OK with this.”

Yes, I fucking can. I get to say what my terms are. And I get to change them whenever I want to. I can stop you in the middle. I can stop you before you’re through the doorway. I can stop you years from now. You need my consent to have a relationship with me, and you need my consent at every level of intimacy.

I didn’t always know that. And once I learned it, it was hard to employ consistently without feeling like a dick. I belong to myself. That is all. I am my own. You’re just visiting, and you have to be invited. This isn’t just the way I finally learned to date, it’s also the way I finally learned to love.

5 thoughts on “Mine”

  1. yes yes yes.

    why did I have to learn that in therapy? (as opposed to some basic instruction I was given since childhood)

    thanks for putting it so clearly!

  2. You know, it’s not something I’ve ever given a lot of thought to, my physical boundaries. And I realize that’s probably a luxury.

    As for the belly ring business, though it’s probably beside the point: I can’t imagine putting my finger in someone’s bellybutton. It’s as absurd as sticking a finger in their ear. Or their mouth. It’s crazy anyone would think they had a pass to do that.

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Jill Malone

Jill Malone grew up in a military family, went to German kindergarten, and lived across from a bakery that made gummi bears the size of mice. She has lived on the East Coast and in Hawaii, and for the last seventeen years in Spokane with her son, two dogs, a hedgehog, and a lot of outdoor gear. She looks for any excuse to play guitar. Jill is married to a performance artist and addiction counselor who makes the best risotto on the planet.

Giraffe People is her third novel. Her first novel, Red Audrey and the Roping, was a Lambda finalist and won the third annual Bywater Prize for Fiction. A Field Guide to Deception, her second novel, was a finalist for the Ferro-Grumley, and won the Lambda Literary Award and the Great Northwest Book Festival.

Giraffe People

Giraffe People

Between God and the army, fifteen-year-old Cole Peters has more than enough to rebel against. But this Chaplain’s daughter isn’t resorting to drugs or craziness. Truth to tell, she’s content with her soccer team and her band and her white bread boyfriend.

And then, of course, there’s Meghan.

Meghan is eighteen years old and preparing for entry into West Point. For this she has sponsors: Cole’s parents. They’re delighted their daughter is finally looking up to someone. Someone who can tutor her and be a friend.

But one night that relationship changes and Cole’s world flips.

Giraffe People is a potent reminder of the rites of passage and passion that we all endure on our road to growing up and growing strong. Award-winning author Jill Malone tells a story of coming out and coming of age, giving us a take that is both subtle and fresh.

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A Field Guide to Deception

A Field Guide to Deception

In Jill Malone’s second novel, A Field Guide to Deception, nothing is as simple as it appears: community, notions of motherhood, the nature of goodness, nor even compelling love. Revelations are punctured and then revisited with deeper insight, alliances shift, and heroes turn anti-hero—and vice versa.

With her aunt’s death Claire Bernard loses her best companion, her livelihood, and her son’s co-parent. Malone’s smart, intriguing writing beguiles the reader into this taut, compelling story of a makeshift family and the reawakening of a past they’d hoped to outrun. Claire’s journey is the unifying tension in this book of layered and shifting alliances.

A Field Guide to Deception is a serious novel filled with snappy dialogue, quick-moving and funny incidents, compelling characterizations, mysterious plot twists, and an unexpected climax. It is a rich, complex tale for literary readers.

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Red Audrey and the Roping

Red Audrey and the Roping

Occasionally a debut novel comes along that rocks its readers back on their heels. Red Audrey and the Roping is one of that rare and remarkable breed. With storytelling as accomplished as successful literary novelists like Margaret Atwood and Sarah Waters, Jill Malone takes us on a journey through the heart of Latin professor Jane Elliot.

Set against the dramatic landscapes and seascapes of Hawaii, this is the deeply moving story of a young woman traumatized by her mother’s death. Scarred by guilt, she struggles to find the nerve to let love into her life again. Afraid to love herself or anyone else, Jane falls in love with risk, pitting herself against the world with dogged, destructive courage. But finally she reaches a point where there is only one danger left worth facing. The sole remaining question for Jane is whether she is willing to accept her history, embrace her damage, and take a chance on love.

As well as a gripping and emotional story, Red Audrey and the Roping is a remarkable literary achievement. The breathtaking prose evokes setting, characters, and relationships with equal grace. The dialogue sparks and sparkles. Splintered fragments of narrative come together to form a seamless suspenseful story that flows effortlessly to its dramatic conclusion.

Winner of the Bywater Prize for Fiction, Red Audrey and the Roping is one of the most memorable first novels you will ever read.

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